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Cruise ship fleet doubled

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Bayonne to dock four ships in 2005

By Ronald Leir,Journal staff writers

Next year Bayonne will be home to four cruise ships that will be berthing at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, formerly known as the Military Ocean Terminal.

Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Nancy Kist said that Royal Caribbean International, in conjunction with a subsidiary company, Celebrity Cruises, would be doubling its Bayonne-based mini-fleet.

And, Kist said, it will also start next season's launchings earlier than usual - in late April 2005 - and continue sailings through Nov. 10, 2005.

Kist said she didn't know how much extra revenue, if any, the BLRA could expect from the additional marine traffic, but she said that for this season, the BLRA should be getting $550,000 in quarterly lease payments plus a portion of parking receipts from the cruise line.

So far, Royal Caribbean has paid the BLRA three quarterly payments totaling $412,500, Kist said.

Looking ahead to next season, Kist said that Zenith, a Celebrity Cruises ship with a capacity of 1,374, will begin sailing from Bayonne on April 23. She said the boat would do season-long, seven-night Bermuda sailings.

Voyager of the Seas - which holds more than 3,600 - one of two Royal Caribbean ships that have berthed at the Peninsula this year, has left Bayonne to winter in Miami, Fla., and is scheduled to return for an initial 2005 sail by mid-May, Kist said.

Empress of the Seas, which alternated with Voyager this season, will be giving way to Enchantment of the Seas, due to arrive in Bayonne on July 7, after she's "stretched" 90 feet in dry dock to accommodate an additional 150 staterooms.

Kist said Enchantment is booked for "specialty sails" to Canada (Halifax/Nova Scotia) and New England (Boston/Bar Harbor). Enchantment of the Seas is currently listed as holding 2,800.

"They're picking us first to showcase it," Kist said.

On Sept. 22, 2005, Celebrity's ship, Constellation, with room for 1,950, is due in port and will be doing a 13-night Canada/New England sail, with stops in Martha's Vineyard, Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax and Queen City.

With more than 200,000 passengers having sailed out of Bayonne since mid-May, Royal Caribbean concluded that it made sense to expand operations next year, Port Manager Anthony Caputo said.

"We're looking at a 25 percent increase in port calls (sailings out and back) to 65 next year," Caputo said. "And we're planning to sponsor a float in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in November (2005)."

Even with the increased volume expected, Kist and Caputo said that the cruise line would be able to make do with the single berth, although there are plans to expand the berthing area.

"Eventually, we're going to be able to handle two simultaneous ship berthings," Kist said. Designs for that are in progress, she said.

Kist said the BLRA was exploring the possibility of applying all or part of a $5 million federal aid package for stabilization of the Peninsula's south side - which Kist credited Rep. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, with helping secure - to the berth expansion project.

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